“Can you hear me?” It sounds like something you’d hear in a cell phone commercial, but police say you should hang up immediately if you’re asked that question by someone you don’t know—because it could be a scam.
According to the Norfolk, Va., police department, these scammers usually call from a number that the victim doesn’t recognize.
“Usually it has a familiar area code, making the potential victim more likely to answer the call,” Officer Jo Ann Hughes from the Norfolk Police Department told News 3.
Once you answer the phone, the scammers usually introduce themselves and their business. Hughes said this “kind of warms you up.” This portion of the call is sometimes an automated recording.
Sometime during the call, the scammer will ask, “Can you hear me?”
“All of us, our natural response is to say, yes, or sure, or yes I can,” said Hughes. But she warned that this is exactly the response you should avoid in this situation because the crooks could be recording your “yes” response to sign you up for a product or service that you never agreed to. If you later try to deny the charges, the scammers will offer as “evidence” your recorded voice agreeing to the charges and will then threaten legal action if you refuse to pay.
There are also several variations of this scam. The recordings may be used to authorize charges on a stolen credit card or to trick an automated cable company system, according to CBS News. The con artist already has your phone number and may have already collected some of your personal information, such as your credit card numbers or account numbers, as a result of a data breach.
“A lot of times, victims do not want to come forward because they are embarrassed. They feel like, ‘It was my fault. I should have known better,’ and they are just embarrassed by it all together. So we do not get a whole lot of reports, unfortunately,” said Hughes.
Police offered some advice to help avoid this particular scam:
- Do not answer the phone from numbers you do not recognize
- Do not give out personal information
- Do not confirm your number over the phone
- Do not answer questions over the phone
- Hang up and call the police
“We really want people to hear this,” said Hughes. “[We want people to] say, ‘Look, I just heard about this scam on TV,’…and to hang up.”
If you think you’ve been a victim of a phone scam, you should call your local police and you can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here.
The FTC offers a list of red flags that can help you spot telemarketing scams:
- You’ve been specially selected (for this offer)
- You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product
- You’ve won one of five valuable prizes
- You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery
- This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else
- You have to make up your mind right away
- You trust me, right?
- You don’t need to check our company with anyone
- We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card
You can register your home and cell phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. While it won’t stop all unsolicited calls, it will stop most. If your number is on the registry and you’re still receiving calls, the FTC says they’re probably coming from scammers ignoring the law. They advised hanging up and reporting the caller to www.donotcall.gov.